This hawk is full of talk

for The Brooklyn Paper
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Manhattan has “Pale Male,” the red-tailed hawk who caused a sensation a few years ago by becoming the first known member of his species to nest in a man-made structure, in this case, a co-op on Fifth Avenue and 74th Street.

You remember the story. Like a latter day Grinch, the hard-hearted co-op board president tried to evict Pale Male and his partner, Lola, leading to a battle of dueling celebrities; TV star Mary Tyler Moore fought for the hawks’ right to nest on the building, while “newswoman” Paula Zahn supported the eviction effort. Country singer Steve Earle even wrote a song about the controversy.

It seemed like a classic “only in Manhattan” kind of story. But it wasn’t. With decidedly less press coverage, another red-tailed hawk has abandoned the trees of his forefathers and moved into a man-made structure (see story at right). Unlike Pale Male, this hawk has chosen to live not in ultra-rich upper Fifth Avenue or ultra-chic downtown Manhattan, but in ultra-hip North Brooklyn, namely a light pole at the McCarren Park baseball field.

What does this mean, if anything? We decided to ask the somewhat quirky bird himself.

Beside the Point: Why Brooklyn?

Red-tailed Hawk: Have you ever spent any time on the Upper East Side — lots of rich, old people, nothing to do. It reminds me more of Riverdale every year.

BTP: What’s wrong with Downtown?

Red: A dreary, expensive shopping mall surrounded by fake ethnic neighborhoods, bogus Bohemia and soulless business districts.

BTP: I thought the Upper West Side was kind of hip.

Red: When, in 1978?

BTP: I see your point, but why North Brooklyn?

Red: It’s a happening place full of young artists smoking cigarettes in European-looking cafes and nightclubs.

BTP: I don’t think those people are artists.

Red: Really? Where did the artists go?

BTP: They started migrating east some time ago, first to East Williamsburg, then to Bushwick — by now they are probably in Canarsie. Anyway, I thought you were more interested in pigeons.

Red: I am, but pigeons are pigeons, whether they are on Sutton Place or Sutton Street.

BTP: Tell us more about living here. Is there anything else you like or don’t like about the area?

Red: Kickball — I hate kickball. Ditto soccer. Doesn’t anybody play baseball on a baseball field anymore? I thought it was supposed to be your national pastime. And those loud concerts they have in the McCarren pool; the only reason they haven’t driven all the rats and mice out of the place is that they are freaked out by artificial turf. Speaking of unnatural surfaces, can someone explain to me why people would choose to play softball on asphalt, when there are grass fields right across the street?

BTP: Anything else?

Red: Yeah, those tall “finger” buildings that are going up everywhere. You are gliding across Brooklyn’s big sky, when all of a sudden — yikes! — you come that close to slamming into a 10-story glass tower. Who’s in charge of the zoning around here?

BTP: You certainly seem to be getting into the spirit of the community. I suppose that next you’re going to complain about the G train.

Red: The what?

Tom Gilbert is a writer and historian living in Greenpoint.

The Kitchen Sink

Many recent stories about the “report cards” issued by the Department of Education lumped Greenpoint and Williamsburg together, burying the good news that Greenpoint has some of the highest-rated elementary schools in the city, namely PS 31, PS 34 and PS 110. …

Music Partners’ Winter session will begin on Wednesday, Nov. 28 at 177 Kent St. There will be three classes on Wednesday morning: a 9:30 am class for infants to 14 months; a 10:30 am class for 15 months to 2-1/2-year-olds; and a 11:30 am class for 2-1/2 to 5-year-olds. The classes are limited to 12 children each. The program is run by the acclaimed Brooklyn–Queens Conservatory of Music. You can’t beat the price ($200 for 10 weeks, $130 if you live in the community). For info, e-mail …

Town Square is bringing the Moscow Circus to town on Thursday, Jan. 24. They will perform at the Warsaw Club on Driggs Avenue, the first time that the Moscow Circus has ever performed in New York City. For info, check out or e-mail or

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Reader Feedback

Theresa from Greenpoint says:
Tom Gilbert, I am a life long resident of Greenpoint. I have just read your stories about the Red-tailed hawk. It has been visiting my backyard for some time now. Recently its visits are more frequent. I have seen it catch & eat its kill. I was amazed to see it here in Greenpoint and enjoy its visits. I'm sure the resident birds aren't quite as happy as I am.
I must
Jan. 2, 2008, 6:10 pm

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